Hibernation Weekend Roundup

It’s a rather late weekend roundup, folks, as I was busy writing my thoughts on The Cape on Sunday night. Have you read it?

Well, it’s January… right smack dab in the coldest time of the Winter months. I don’t mind the cold I suppose as I prefer this weather than tropical sweltering heat with humidity levels in the 70s, but still, the well below zero windchill makes me want to just curl up in my couch as much as I can. Hence I forgo the theater this past weekend, though I’m sure glad many people packed the cinemas to see True Grit instead of that abysmal Little Fockers (please, Ben Stiller, give the franchise a rest already!) The Coens’ Western remake grossed nearly $15 mil over the weekend, bringing the total gross to $110 million in 19 days (per Box Office Mojo), which is the most financially successful film from the Minnesotan brothers to date. Good for them, it really is a great film that I’m glad to call one of this year’s best.

To color my hibernation weekend was Beauty & the Beast on Blu-ray, arriving from Netflix just in time for Friday night viewing.

A few people have been tweeting the past few weeks about how gorgeous that Disney flick looks on Blu-ray, and wow, this one definitely lives up to the hype. The colors and details are ever so vivid, and the part I look forward the most, the waltz sequence between Belle & the Beast is still as impressive as the first time I saw it. I love how the camera swooped in from behind the chandelier and then focuses on the two characters on the dance floor. It used a then groundbreaking technology to give it that 3D effect to give it much more depth than the usually flat-looking animation. This isn’t my favorite Disney princess movies of all time (that’d be Sleeping Beauty), but Beauty & the Beast is still fun to watch and merits its 1992 Best Picture Oscar nomination (the first bestowed to an animated feature).

Another one I saw was a decade-old sports comedy The Replacements. Apparently I had bought it a while ago when Blockbuster’s brick & mortar store went kaput, but just realized it when we were going through our dvd collection. It’s as cheesy and goofy as ever but one that probably makes a lot of football fans’ guilty pleasure list. The gist is that the professional players have gone on strike, which forced the league to call a former NFL coach out of retirement to find replacement players to finish the season’s last four games. It’s fun just to watch Gene Hackman coaching a bunch of misfits as well as watching Keanu Reeves did his best quarterback impersonation. Oh, and for fans of the Matrix star, there are plenty of slo-mos of him running with his hair blowing in the wind 😀

Well, not going to the cinemas also gave me a chance to finally finish the romance mystery novel I’ll be adapting for Castor’s blog’s Hollywood Fantasy Draft II. I’ll be posting my dream cast list on Wednesday, exactly a week before my scheduled pitch on January 19th. I’m so looking forward to this event, which will be the second time I’ll be participating. If you haven’t read my first pitch, click on the Hearts Want poster on my sidebar, or click here to view my first dream cast picks.

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That’s the roundup, folks. So what movie(s) did you manage to see this weekend?

2010 Year in Review: 5 Best and 5 Worst of the year

Reel graphic courtesy of Vectorstock.com
Welcome to 2011!! What a year it has been, 2010 was the first full year of movie blogging. I had no idea where this blog would take me when I started back in June 2009, but now I can’t imagine life without it. So thanks everyone for your support, and I hope you keep on coming back! 😀

Looking back at my Most Anticipated 2010 Movies list, l’ve only seen six out of the ten (two are actually not even released yet) and of the six, one totally failed my expectation. Last year, I saw a total of 29 movies, with the last one being True Grit on the last day of the year. I know that 29 is a pretty dismal number for a movie blogger. Of course that doesn’t include all of the dvd viewings from previous years, but still! Hence one of New Year’s resolution is to try to see more movies and hopefully more independent fares to balance the mainstream stuff.

Anyway, without further ado, I present to you my five best and five worst flix list of 2010:

BEST

Please note that even though I saw The King’s Speech on January 1, I’m including it on my list as it was released in 2010.

    1. How To Train Your Dragon (full review)
      Even though I didn’t get a chance to see this in 3D, it’s positively my favorite of the year! The visuals are a spectacle, but this Dreamworks’ animated feature also has plenty of heart. It’s right up there with Wall-E in terms of how much this movie affected me. I’ve seen it twice already and loved every minute of it. I’ve seen bought the Blu-ray and will probably end up being my fave of all time! 😀
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    2. Toy Story 3
      I didn’t review this Pixar masterpiece, but it inspired me to list my Top 5 Fave Pixar Characters. Watching Toy Story 3 was no doubt one of the most entertaining cinematic experience in quite a while. If there is such a thing as a ‘flawless’ movie, this one could count as one.  The beauty of Pixar animated features are how well written the characters are and how incredibly poignant are their stories. These incredible toys have faced all kinds of mishaps and misadventures, but nothing could prepare them — and us — for what they’re about to face here. That ‘hand holding’ scene packs an emotional punch that if you didn’t at least choke up, you’ve got to be made of stone! It made me feel like a kid again, I will treasure this movie (and the entire trilogy) for years to come.
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    3. Inception (full review)
      One of the most original concept I’ve seen in a long time, Inception truly lives up to the hype. It’s an exhilarating experience watching this Christopher Nolan’s brain teaser, but one that certainly needs to be seen on the big screen. This is a film where the visual eye candy matches the brain candy (unlike Tron: Legacy), not to mention the wonderful performances from all of the cast. Totally agree with Ted’s assessment that Nolan should’ve been TIME’s pick for ‘the next Spielberg.’ In fact, even with less than a dozen movies under his belt, judging from the quality of his work, you could even say he’s already Spielberg’s equal.
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    4. The King’s Speech
      I was going to post my Best/Worst list on Saturday but I’m glad I waited until I saw this one. My wise blogger friend Mad Hatter warned me to be careful not to become a ‘victim’ of hype, and he specifically mentioned this movie “…just go in to watch a movie, don’t go looking for a new favorite. It’ll make the results that much more enjoyable.” And so I did. But guess what, as I’ve predicted in my top 5 favorite films about British monarch list, this one would’ve certainly made the list!

      Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush delivered masterful performances, certainly one of their career’s best that deserve major award recognition this year. This buddy dramedy between King George VI and his eccentric speech therapist Lionel Logue are affecting, funny and earnest. It made me laugh and cry throughout and by the end I really was ready to clap. Beautifully written and directed, it also boasted the wonderful performance of the supporting cast: Helena Bonham Carter as the King’s wife and Guy Pearce as the King’s brother David.
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    5. True Grit
      I never thought I’d put this one on my Best list given that I had no interest in seeing this at all. I’m not a fan of Westerns nor the Coen Brothers (don’t get me wrong, I think they’re talented, I just don’t really ‘get’ their movies). But for whatever reason, the trailer intrigued me enough to make me want to see it in the theater. Unlike a lot of the Coens’ fans, I’m actually more inclined to see it BECAUSE of its PG-13 rating, I figure I wouldn’t have to worry about all the extreme violence that my friends warned me about in No Country for Old Men.

      Well, obviously I dug it or it wouldn’t have been on the list. In fact, it knocked Social Network out of my Top Five. I was truly impressed by the fourteen year-old Hailee Steinfeld in her breakout performance as the tough-talking Mattie Ross set out to avenge her father’s murder. She was nominated for a SAG Award in a Supporting Role, but you could say the young girl carried the film alongside seasoned actor Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. As Joel Coen said in this Screencrave interview, this film is “… Less a Western than a dark comedy… We wanted what was funny about the
 book, what was the humor of the book to come through in the movie.” Perhaps that’s why I enjoyed it so much.
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Honorable Mentions:

  • The Social Network
    This one was in my Top Five before I saw True Grit, in fact, I was thisclose to making a ‘tie’ pick and broke the Top 5 rule 🙂 For a film about a social utility web site I hardly use, I found this David Fincher film surprisingly engaging. It has won practically every major award and though I was skeptical before seeing it, now I can see why. Aaron Sorkin’s well-written script and Fincher’s astute direction made for a suspenseful story and one that kept me engrossed from start to finish. As Ted mentioned in his Best list, it’s refreshing to see a film without a single gunshot or explosion being fired, yet still managed to keep me at the edge of my seat.

    Great performances abound from all the young actors, in fact, it should win Best Ensemble Cast of Actors Under 30 (the oldest in the cast is Justin Timberlake at 29). Jesse Eisenberg is great as Mark Zuckerberg, but Andrew Garfield stole scenes as Eduardo Saverin. His is one of the notable performances that I noticed from last year (I feel another list coming)
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  • The Town
    Ben Affleck’s sophomore project after the excellent Gone, Baby, Gone proves that he’s not just a one hit wonder. This compelling crime drama set in his favorite town of Boston boasts dynamic action, poignant dialog and notable performances from Affleck himself, as well as Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner. Though his acting skill is back in a lot of people’s good graces, I still think he’s a more talented director than actor. It’s not quite as good as Michael Man’s Heat, but still a worthy heist movie in its own right.
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  • Nowhere Boy (full review)
    After watching Kick-Ass, I was really impressed by Aaron Johnson’s performance. But seeing him in this confirmed he’s definitely one of Britain’s hottest young imports working today. His spot-on performance as John Lennon is deeply affecting — he wasn’t merely impersonating the music legend but was able to capture the forlornness and unhappiness of his youth. Not to mention the terrific performances of Kristin Scott Thomas as John’s aunt Mimi and Anne-Marie Duff as his estranged mother. This is one biopic not to be missed.
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WORST

I was quite fortunate that I skipped a lot of films that look awful even from the trailer (Grown Ups, Cop Out, Valentine’s Day, The Back Up Plan, etc.). But still, compared to the others I saw, I think these five deserve to be on the bottom five:

  1. The Expendables (full review)
    Just downright awful, not worth seeing in the theater even for the cast! As I said in my review, there is absolutely nothing I could praise about this movie. In fact, the one star is for the “He wants to be president” line from Sly to Arnie the Governator, and the only not-so-cringe-inducing performance by Mickey Rourke.

    1 out of 5 reels
  2. Clash of the Titans (full review)
    Horrible acting, subpar script and so-so visual effects makes this a total waste of time. At least the Harryhausen original made an attempt to be somewhat engaging despite the poor CGI. I’m glad I didn’t waste my money seeing it on 3D (which I heard was even more terrible), but I wish I just wait until it came out in DVD.

    1 out of 5 reels

  3. Knight & Day
    It’s official. Tom Cruise has a superhero complex. He just loves being such a bad ass hero. It’s not enough that he’s got the Mission: Impossible franchise, he’s once again reprising the Ethan Hunt heroic character who defies logic and physics in order to fulfill his mission. Throw in an ever annoying Cameron Diaz who shares nearly every bit of screen time with him and the agony is complete. If I wasn’t cringing at all the ludicrous action scenes, I was scratching my head wondering what Peter Saarsgard was doing in this movie?? At least the gorgeous locations in Spain make this somewhat bearable, but overall, it was a vapid production.

    1.5 out of 5 reels
    ..
  4. The Bounty Hunter
    This is the movie that made me write this open letter to Gerry Butler. As I said in that post, I kinda had a hunch this was going to be bad, but saw it anyway as I already promised my friend Prairiegirl I’d go see it. Not even my affinity for Butler could make me enjoy this flick all the way through. Sure there were some funny moments but really, it’s more fun watching GB’s interviews!

    1.5 out of 5 reels
  5. The Tourist (full review)
    It pains me to put this on my worst list because I had been anticipating it so much and two of my favorite actors are in it (in fact, the two stars are for Rufus Sewell and Timothy Dalton to share! :D) But the inept script and preposterous plot forced me to do it. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a complete waste and I’d even recommend this one for a rental as it’s still an entertaining fare to spend a mindless afternoon on. As I said in my review, Johnny Depp is pretty funny on occasion, but certainly it isn’t one of his best work.

    2 out of 5 reels

So that’s my list folks. Obviously with a list like this, it’s all a matter of personal taste, so no offense if your favorite ends up in my WORST list 😀 Well, what are your best and worst picks of this past year? Let’s hear it!

Guest Post: 3 Best films of 2010 and 3 worst films from 2010

By Ted Saydalavong (read Ted’s profile)

So 2010 is coming to an end, hard to believe, movie fans and critics everywhere will have their list of best and worst films. For this post I’ll name my top 3 best films (Note: Different people have different tastes in films so this is MY personally favorite films of 2010). And I’ll name my top 3 worst films of 2010. Also, since I didn’t see all of the films that came out this year, I will only focus on the big budgeted ones that studio hoped it will either make a lot of money or earn some Oscar nominations.

I saw some good foreign films this year too that I would include in my top 3 but again since I decided to just focus on big budget Hollywood films, I can’t include them. Side note: In case you’re interested in some of those foreign films, please check out Mother from South Korea and A Prophet from France. Both were released in 2009 in their country but didn’t hit the states till early 2010. I will bet that those two films will get a remake from Hollywood real soon, so check them out before Hollywood will either ruin or maybe they’ll improve them. (Example: The Departed was an upgrade over the original Infernal Affairs from Hong Kong).

Anyhoo, here are my top 3 best/favorite films of 2010:

  1. The Social Network
    So how can you make a movie about how Facebook was created? Well first off you hire a good writer in Aaron Sorkin and a great director David Fincher and make one hell of great film. Whether you’re a Facebook user or not (I’m one of the 500 million users, in fact I signed up with them since they started accepting users from outside of college campuses around mid 2004, I think), you’ll enjoy the great cinematographer, sharp dialogs and great performances. I can’t say enough good things about this film, partly maybe because I’ve started a online company in my early twenties and was caught up in the excitement and/or maybe I was just thrill seeing a movie that didn’t have any shootouts or explosions yet I was on the edge of my seat while watching it. Will it win the best picture of the year, I won’t be surprised if it does, so far it won pretty much all of the prestigious critic awards and I believe most of the respected critics in the country have voted as one of their favorite films of the year.
  2. Inception
    This is by far one of the most ambitious and smartest summer tent pole films I’ve seen since well Nolan’s last film, The Dark Knight. It has great visual effects, soundtrack, performances and editing. This is a good example of how to make a good smart pop corn summer flick without insulting the audience (I’m looking at you Michael Bay, McG, M. Night and Brett Ratner). A lot of us have been complaining about how summer films tend to be either sequels, remakes or comic book based, so when a studio has the balls to release a big summer flick like this, I was truly appreciated.

    If The Dark Knight didn’t make as much money as it did, we probably would never have seen Inception on the big screen.Now with all that said, I do have some problems with the film. Mainly I think Nolan made the story more complicated than it should have been and he just couldn’t figure out how to solve it. Maybe he should’ve brought in his brother to clean up the mess. Also, I just think the main characters weren’t in any real danger even though they were being chase by the “bad guys”, maybe if Nolan had included another team who’s also going after the same thing and somehow they meet in the dream world or something like that, I don’t know. Those are just some minor complaints I have about this film.

    I think Time magazine had it wrong when they named M. Night the next Spielberg a few years ago. They should’ve waited a few more years and name Christopher Nolan instead, let’s face it, what has M. Night done since he was given that throne? Well he made The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening and The Last Air Bender. Raise your hands if you actually think those films are “good” or even decent, anybody? I didn’t think so. Nolan on the other hand has made some good to great films around the time M. Night was on the cover of Time magazine. You may ask why I brought this up? Well I believe Nolan will have a career that’s similar to Spielberg’s. Steven Spielberg has made a lot of films that earned tons of cash at the box office but was never given any respect by his peers until he made Schindler’s List. Now look at Nolan’s career so far, the two Batman films have made well over a billion dollars, Inception made close to $300 million and of course the upcoming The Dark Knight Rises is a guarantee box office gold. Maybe in a few more years, Nolan will make THAT film and get some respect from his peers.
  3. True Grit
    I saw this film just a few days ago and it’s still fresh on my mind, when I see it again I may either move it up on the list or down, not sure yet. In any case, this is a great western from the Coen Bros., filled with great performances and dialog. It’s so surprising how funny it was and yes it does have the Coen Bros. signature violence in it, even though it got a PG-13 rating. I won’t ruin it for you but you’ll be shock at how brutal that scene was for a PG-13 film. The film was gorgeously shot by Roger Deakins, one of my favorite cinematographers. Seriously this man just doesn’t know how to make a movie look bad, he even shot M. Might’s awful film The Village and that film looked amazing.

    With the Coen Bros.’ direction and Deakins’ great cinematography, this is a highly recommended film. BTW, don’t expect to see a lot of shootouts in the movie, the marketing folks did a great job of making the film look like it’s an action adventure western. If that’s what you’re looking for then you’ll be truly disappointed, Tombstone it is not. For western, I would compare this to Unforgiven and for the Coen Bros. film, I would compare it to Blood Simple.

Now here are my 3 worst films of the year, again there are tons of bad films that came out in 2010 but I’m going to only focus on the high priced pictures Hollywood offered us.

  1. Green Zone
    This is by far the worst film I saw this year and it pains me to say it because Paul Greenglass is one of my favorite directors working in Hollywood today. I also like Matt Damon as actor quite a bit but somehow these two guys totally messed up this movie. I considered myself to be liberal when it comes to politics but wow this movie just rubbed me the wrong way. Not only was it preachy on a subject that most people in America already knew about but Greengrass kept hammering away at it and never lets up. If you saw the film then you know what I’m talking about. I also thought that the film came out a couple of years too late, I mean if the Bush administration were still in the office then maybe it would’ve been more relevant but it’s 2010 and Bush is long gone.

    A little history behind this movie, when it was first announced way back in 2007 the film was supposed to be a satire on the Irag War. But before they started shooting, Greengrass decided to change the script to a straight drama picture. Universal was actually quite excited about the new script and they even scheduled the movie to open on the holiday season of 2008 hoping for some Oscar nominations. Well a month or two into production, Greengrass again decided to change the script, now he wanted to be an action/drama and so they had to push the release date to 2009. With more changes to the script while the film was being shot, Universal didn’t have much faith in the picture so they decided to dump it in March of this year, a hit or miss month for film releases. Also, the film went well over its original $80 mil budget, it came in around $150 mil and of course it tanked at the box office.

    Again it pains me to call this the worst film of year because I know that Greengrass is such a talented filmmaker but I think his political beliefs has overtaken his mind and ruined this movie. Hopefully he’ll come back with a great film in a year or two. He’s currently in pre-production of a film called They Marched Into Sunlight, another political theme film set during the Vietnam war.
  2. Unstoppable
    I don’t know how Tony Scott convinced a movie studio to give him $100 mil to shoot a film about a runaway train and somehow he even convinced Denzel Washington to come on board. The film got some good reviews from critics and I was hoping for some good time when I went to see it. Boy was I wrong, the film has no dept and I didn’t care for any of the characters in the movie. I was so bore that I was sort falling asleep during one of the big action sequences. The film runs about an hour and a half but it felt like 3 hours to me.

    If you really want to see a better movie about runaway train, I suggest renting Runaway Train starring Jon Voight and Eric Roberts, it doesn’t have the cool action scenes like Unstoppable but it has way more interesting storyline and characters. Runaway Train was going to beAkira Kurosawa’s first directing debut here in the states but the project was canceled because the snowstorms were so bad, his crew could not work. The movie might have even better had Kurosawa directed it but I’ve never seen any of Kurosawa’s work so I’m just assuming here.
  3. Robin Hood
    This was one of the films I looked forward to back in the summer but wow I don’t know what happened. The film was a mess from start to finish and everyone in the film looked like they didn’t want to be there, well Cate Blanchet was pretty good in it. Crowe looked like he’d rather be doing something else than playing Robin Hood and Scott’s direction was downright awful. It pains me to say it because Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors but I think he just made the movie for the money. The movie was supposed to be a prequel so why did they cast a forty something Crowe as Robin Hood? We’ll never know.

    The behind the scenes stuff was quite long with this film so maybe they should’ve shelf the project instead of spending close to $200 mil shooting it. My guess is that Universal spent so much money in pre-production that they have to make it and probably pushed Scott to finish it in time for an early May release. Originally it was scheduled for a November 2009 release but because of script changes, they had to move the release date to 2010.

I would’ve included the remake Clash of the Titans on my worst list but it was so bad that I couldn’t even finish watching it, I turned it off after half hour into the movie.

Well those are my best and worst list of 2010, feel free to agree or disagree and of course you can name your best and worst films from 2010.

Happy New Year!

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rtm’s note: I should have my own list up by later today this weekend. Well, any reaction to any of Ted’s choices? Please chime in below.

Guest Post: 5 Reasons I’m looking forward to True Grit

True Grit becomes one I really want to check out after seeing the trailer, it’ll be the first film from the Coen brothers I’m actually excited about. But my good friend and frequent FC contributor Ted S. has been anticipating this movie for quite some time. So why not let him share the five main reasons why he can’t wait to see it.


First off I just wanted to say that I’ve never read the book or seen the original film from 1969 starring John Wayne, so I’m going into this movie with not much knowledge about the story. I think most people my age (early 30’s and younger) probably doesn’t even know that this is a remake and based on a novel, I’m just assuming here so if you’re in your 20s or early 30s and have seen the original film and/or have read the novel then good for you.

Anyhoo, here are five reasons why I’m so excited to see this film on the big screen:

  1. The Coen Bros. They’re on my list of great filmmakers working in Hollywood today. In my opinion they haven’t made a “bad” movie yet, some might argue that The Ladykillers is probably their worst film but I really enjoyed it even though it got trashed by most critics and didn’t even make any money at the box office. Blood Simple, Fargo, Miller’s Crossing and No Country For Old Men are my favorite films of theirs.
  2. The Dude and Jason Bourne teamed up in a shoot’em up western, enough said.

  3. It’s Western and Hollywood doesn’t make a lot them these days. When I was very young, I’ve seen those spaghetti western films starry Clint Eastwood many times and since then I’ve always love watching western, even bad ones. My top three favorite westerns are Unforgiven, The Wild Bunch and The Outlaw Josey Whales. Hopefully this new True Grit will be on that list too.
  4. Roger Deakins. He’s the cinematographer on this film and many others, he shot the great looking The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I believe he had shot most if not all of The Coen bros. films.
  5. The PG-13 rating, this is I believe it’s the Bros’ only second PG rated film, the other being The Hudsucker Proxy. When I first saw the trailer for True Grit, I thought for sure it was going to be a brutal R rated western and was quite surprise when it got a PG-13 rating. So I’m quite curious to see how tame the violence is in this film. I’m sure most of you who are fans of The Coens bros. know how much they love to shoot violent films.

So, who’s with us? Anyone else excited for this film?